James Robertson’s tractor skills put to the test

Posted by on 25 September 2019 | Comments

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The FMG Young Farmer of the Year has had his tractor driving skills put to the test on the international stage.

James Robertson, 22, took part in a driving competition at the National Ploughing Championships in Ireland last week.

Competitors had to use a tractor to safely stack bales, reverse a trailer and they had to tackle a quiz on safe farm practices.

A joint team of Robertson and Macra na Feirme Young Farmer of the Year Daniel Hawthorne took out the competition.

“It’s been a busy and exciting week. I only flew back into New Zealand on Monday, so I’m still getting over the jetlag,” Robertson told The Country host Jamie Mackay.

The National Ploughing Championships pulls a massive crowd of 300,000 people over three days.

It is designed to showcase Irish food, farming and culture and attracts people from more than a dozen countries.

“It’s insane. The event attracts about 100,000 visitors a day,” said Robertson.

“It’s an amazing event from a logistical and organisational perspective. It moves to a new location every two years.”

James’ trip to Ireland was funded by Betacraft and was part of his prize package for winning the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

It was his first time visiting the country.

“The agricultural sector in Ireland is facing a few challenges, with low beef prices. But the dairy sector is booming,” he said.

“Lots of dairy conversions are still taking place off the back of the removal of EU milk quotas in 2015.”

Robertson said the majority of dairy herds are housed in sheds for 16 weeks during the wet winter months.

“Environmental standards are a hot topic for farmers in Ireland as well. It was nice to know we’re not the only ones facing these issues,” he said.

“Farmers in that country are facing input controls, meaning limits around the amount of nitrogen they can apply to pasture and crops. In New Zealand, the focus is more on nutrient outputs.”

Robertson said Ireland is trying to position itself as the food basket for Europe.